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AIR LINE STEWARDS & STEWARDESSES ASSN. v. TWA

February 25, 1959

AIR LINE STEWARDS AND STEWARDESSES ASSOCIATION, INTERNATIONAL, an unincorporated labor organization, Plaintiff,
v.
TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, INC., a corporation, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HERLANDS

Two motions are before the Court: one by plaintiff for judgment on the pleadings; and a cross-motion by defendant for summary judgment.

Plaintiff's motion (F.R.Civ.P. rule 12 (c), 28 U.S.C.A.) is based on the proposition that the answer fails to state a defense to the claim and that the answer admits sufficient allegations of the complaint to entitle plaintiff, as a matter of law, to the relief requested. Plaintiff, Air Line Stewards and Stewardesses Association, International (hereafter called the 'Union'), seeks an injunction to require defendant, Trans World Airlines, Inc. (hereafter called 'TWA') to treat the Union as the certified collective bargaining representative of all of TWA's stewards and stewardesses, regardless of their nationality and regardless of the geographic location of the segments of flights on which such personnel serve.

Claiming that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, defendant has cross-moved for summary judgment. F.R.Civ.P. rule 56.

 Both motions involve common questions of law and will be discussed together. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, plaintiff's motion is denied; and defendant's cross-motion is granted.

 Involved in the action for an injunction, are some fifty-odd stewards and stewardesses. They are foreign nationals who are based abroad and who fly on TWA planes wholly outside the continental United States and its possessions.

 The Union was certified on March 6, 1947 by the National Mediation Board (pursuant to Section 2, Ninth, of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C.A. § 152, Ninth) as the bargaining representative 'to represent Flight Stewards and Hostesses employed by the Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. (now TWA) for the purposes of the Railway Labor Act.'

 TWA is a common carrier by air, engaged in interstate and foreign commerce. It satisfies the qualifications of 45 U.S.C.A. § 181. Section 181 makes certain pertinent provisions of the Railway Labor Act (R.L.A.) applicable to TWA.

 The Union bases its action on the Board's certification, claiming that by virtue of the terms of the certification and Board practice, the certification applies to the subject personnel. This court's jurisdiction is invoked to enforce what the Union contends to be the Board's determination of certification and the rights accruing thereunder, granted to the Union under the R.L.A. By failing to bargain with the Union as the representative of the subject personnel, it is claimed that Sections 2 of the R.L.A. (45 U.S.C.A. § 152, first, second, fourth, sixth, seventh, and ninth) has been violated.

 Plaintiff's contentions may be summarized as follows:

 First: Under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1337, this court has original jurisdiction to compel TWA to bargain with the Union as the certified representative of the subject personnel because the only issue is the scope of coverage of that certificate and that issue raises a question of statutory interpretation for the court's decision.

 Second: The Board's certification of the Union includes all TWA employees in the craft or class because (A) the language of the certification itself is all inclusive; (B) the language of section 201 of the R.L.A. (45 U.S.C.A. § 181) literally makes the Act applicable to 'every' employee of an air carrier engaged in 'foreign commerce,' such as TWA; (C) the legislative history of the R.L.A. and cognate statutes shows that Congress intended to reach all employees of the air carrier, wherever they may fly or whatever their nationality or base of operations; (D) Section 401(l) of the Civil Aeronautics Act (49 U.S.C.A. § 481(l)) supports the extension of the R.L.A. to all employees of carriers holding a certificate of convenience and necessity for flights overseas or in foreign commerce; (E) Congress had the power to extend the R.L.A. to all crew members of American air carriers, and the language of Section 201 of the R.L.A. (45 U.S.C.A. § 181) evidences congressional intent to do so; and (F) to except any segment of the personnel here involved would defeat the purposes of the R.L.A. and its concept of entire class or craft representation.

 Defendant's contentions may be summarized as follows:

 First: The coverage that the Board intended by its certification is in doubt; and this question of fact precludes entry of a judgment on the pleadings for plaintiff.

 Second: This Court lacks jurisdiction herein because (A) the Board has sole and exclusive power to determine the extent of bargaining authority granted by the Board's certification, and the exercise of the Board's discretion is not judicially reviewable; and (B) the court cannot act with respect to the Board's certification inasmuch as the Board is not a party to the present action.

 Third: Congress has limited the operation of the R.L.A. to the territorial limits of the United States.

 Under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1337, a district court has original jurisdiction 'of any civil action * * * arising under any Act of Congress regulating commerce * * *.' That the R.L.A. is a statute 'regulating commerce' is not in dispute. 45 U.S.C.A. § 151a. See Switchmen's Union of North America v. National Mediation Board, 1943, 320 U.S. 297, 322, 64 S. Ct. 95, 88 L. Ed. 61 (dissenting opinion). Unless some decisional or statutory impediment exists, the court would have jurisdiction over the matter.

 The premise of the counterargument is that the Union seeks to change the Board's certification and to broaden its coverage by judicial rather than administrative action. Had the issues involved the competing demands of two different labor unions, each seeking to be recognized as the representative of the subject personnel, the defendant's argument and citations would be apposite. Jurisdictional controversies involving the 'asserted overlapping of the interests of two crafts' and necessitating 'a determination of the point where the authority of one craft ends and the other begins' are not to be solved by the courts. General Committee of Adjustment of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers for Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Co., 1943, 320 U.S. 323, 334-335, 64 S. Ct. 146, 151, 88 L. Ed. 76. Similarly, when the National Mediation Board has certified one of two or more unions as representative of a craft or class of employees, the Board determination is not subject to judicial review. Switchmen's Union of North America v. National Mediation Board, 1943, 320 U.S. 297, 64 S. Ct. 95, 88 L. Ed. 61.

 However, the present action is not brought by one segment of a class or craft seeking to invalidate or challenge the Board's determination of a bargaining representative. E.g., Kirkland v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 1948, 83 U.S.App.D.C. 205, 167 F.2d 529, certiorari denied 1948, 335 U.S. 843, 69 S. Ct. 65, 93 L. Ed. 393. Nor is this a species of a jurisdictional dispute between unions in regard to representation that has been finally relegated to an administrative determination. Switchmen's Union of North America v. National Mediation Board, supra. See Rose v. Brotherhood of Railway and Stemship Clerks, 4 Cir., 1950, 181 F.2d 944, 946, certiorari denied 1950, 340 U.S. 851, 71 S. Ct. 78, 95 L. Ed. 623.

 The matter at bar more closely resembles an enforcement proceeding; and, arguendo, the court will proceed on that premise. Assumedly, only one labor organization seeks to represent the subject personnel. The Union has been unqualifiedly certified as representative of the craft or class. What the Board meant when it used the words 'for the purposes of the Railway Labor Act' in the certification is ambiguous.

 One interpretation of the quoted phrase is that the Union has been certified as the representative of all workers in the class or craft to which the Railway Labor Act can validly apply. The heart of the question thus becomes the limit of the maximum coverage that the Board could have properly 'intended' when it certified the Union as the representative of the subject personnel 'for the purposes of the Railway Labor Act.' The question consequently poses an issue of law as to the Board's jurisdiction in the sense of the Board's statutory power. What the Board actually intended as a matter of fact becomes academic in view of this court's construction of the controlling statutes -- that the ...


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